I am a regular player of video games and for me it serves the dual purpose of being sociable and relaxing in a active way. I am sure there are people who will scoff at that sentence.

It is sociable because I play in an environment where people join up into teams and solve problems together, a key element of this is communicating so we coordinate the often complex solution. Now I agree that maybe that isn’t being sociable in the sense of going down the pub and having a few pints and a blether, but like all thinks in life, playing games isn’t just about being locked into constant action requiring constant attention. There are times when we are waiting for people to join, or waiting for people to put their kids to bed, or waiting for someone to make a cup of tea. At these times people chat about their lives, often about their immediate issues though sometimes it is about more major life events. Often the stories will be about amusing times or embarrassing things that have happened which can then be woven into the rest of the evening to continue the fun. Sometimes we don’t even play the game but sit and chat, but maybe that is more to do with me. In short gaming can be like going down the pub with your mates, its just your mates maybe anywhere in the world.

As for relaxing in a active way, well I think of active being mentally active rather than physical. Gaming is still rather sedentary (despite what the Nitendo Wii showed was possible) but mentally it can be challenging particular for us older games whose reflexes have slowed down compared to the under thirties. Generally playing against other people on line is still the most challenging aspect of online gaming, people are just not predictable or if they are the soon learn not to be. Gamers are definitely burning more calories than somebody watching television but just TV, if you drink and eat snacks whilst playing, you are probably going to put on weight.

For somebody that can get overloaded with sensory data, predictable games are a good way of finding space in the world to relax and still be sociable. Unpredictable games can be a challenge but even these have set boundaries which can be learnt and the randomness can be contained to manageable and expected levels; at least that is what I find. There are times when I can recognise my autistic tendencies kicking in.

Two nights ago I was playing and twice within the same activity, I knew that I wasn’t behaving in a particularly rational or expected manner. The first time was when we tried to join up into a group of six to start the activity. We had linked up into a party so we could talk to each other but we had to join together in game. I think four out of the five had joined me but then somebody left, and soon there were just two of us joined up for the activity. The guy that had left first then tried to rally the group to join up on him. Now I knew he was just being helpful, and I also knew that it didn’t matter who the leader of the group was but righteous annoyance kicked in. Why did I have to change to another group? Why not just reform on me? I pretended to act out my frustration by jokingly (by putting on a strange voice) refusing to join the breakoff group and instead start the activity myself. It is not unusual for people to pretend to take offence so I think I got away with it.

The second time was when a new member of the group suggested an improvement on the technique that the standard group of six had developed for solving a particular problem. He had joined us before as a substitute so he wasn’t new as such. He proceeded to describe the chain of events for his solution. There was probably over a dozens linked events that needed to be followed and after he described one he would say “right”, pause and then more on. It was too much for my head to handle all these audio instructions. I started getting annoyed with him, first for suggesting a change in our procedure, then for telling me what to do and I literally had a silent tantrum and let my character stand still for a few moments whilst everyone else got on with the game. I felt like quitting the game or in other words running away to rediscover my equilibrium but I also knew that what the poor guy was saying was helpful and there was obviously a consensus that we would give it a go. I managed to push the feelings away enough to carry on with the game.

We were successful soon afterwards even with me dying so we moved on to the next stage and I left my anxieties behind, at least for the moment. These activities can take hours to do and as I type I am waiting for my console to do a systems update so that we can continue to the last stage from where we left off last night. The other five are waiting for me; I hope tonight will go smoother.

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